The premise of this video is that “each national Football team is an ambassador of its distinct nation’s history, tradition and values, and predictably showcases them in its style, strategy and individual play. Football played in the image of the nation itself: “A National Mirror.” Traditionalists like me who watched and played Football for more than 65 years have seen, experienced and enjoyed watching this phenomenon. Recently a few contrarians emerged trying to debunk this theory, not surprisingly Americans. Although among the staunch supporters of the thesis is no other that Henry Kissinger an avid soccer fan himself.
This article is designed to open a dialog and exchange opinion on validating or contradicting the thesis. Let’s start with the contrarians
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Andrei S. Markovits’ article in the Washington Post on June 9, 2014 acknowledges that there are style differences. “…but they are due to discernible structural influences represented by extant institutions, concrete coaching philosophies and the actual availability of real players that vary widely over time.” I for sure am not going to explain this pseudo academic rationale.
By contrast many like me who watched the “Gallic flair” of the French; the “rhythmic samba-infused jogo bonito” of the Brazilians; the workmanlike “clinical and effective” play of the Germans, the dazzling Dutch “total football” and the physical “tackle and kick the long ball” of the British, beg to differ.
Andrew Jordan offers a comprehensive analysis of team playing styles on the duke.edu web [https://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/tournament-guides/olympic-football-2016-guide/team-playing-styles-in-soccer/] specifically the English, Brazilian, Spanish and Italian national teams. This site includes additional invaluable well written and researched information about “The power of the Global Game” of soccer.
“For centuries, the soldier has been the epitome of British values. They want their citizens to be disciplined, unrelenting, and fierce in everything they do and expect no less from their footballers. Soldiers need not be creative. Soldiers need not step up as individuals and do something out of the ordinary. This mentality can still be clearly seen in the way they play the game of football (Murphy).”
The “La Furia” style may better represent the bravery, courage and aggression of the bull fighter, the adaption of Tiki Taka employs the tricky elements of bull fighting and both are deeply entrenched in Spanish tradition. Spaniards may alsso be more creative and innovative rather that the traditional English in adopting a more successful style when La Furia did not produce success on the international scene.
President Getulio Vargas was the first to use the narrative of football to bring Brazil together. He created the narrative that the samba-like play style of the Brazilian national team was a symbol of the country’s national style. This not only helped unite rivaling states under a single cause, but also helped improve race relations for Brazilians of African descent. It was their cultural style that was said to be the reason for Brazil’s success. The improvisation, creativity, and cunning of black footballers, replaced negative stereotypes with positive stereotypes. The national image of Brazil’s soccer team, and by extension the rest of the nation was built upon Afro-Brazilian culture (Nadel 42-81).
The correlation between Italian culture and Catenaccio is somewhat counter intuitive. Italians have zest and flair and passion love of music and the arts and it may follo that their football style would reflect these attribute. My take is that family is an extremely important value within the Italian culture. Their family solidarity is focused on extended family rather than the west’s idea of “the nuclear family”. Football to them is a generational cultural bridge and for “their” team to win is a matter of personal pride.
Unfortunately, German people are often considered as rude, cold and humorless. This is quite a stereotype and whether it’s true or not you will discover yourself when living in Germany. Nevertheless, there are some personality traits many Germans have in common. German people are hardworking, efficient and disciplined. They think quite practically and try to find a solution for nearly every problem. They tend to be well organized. They plan and plan, and whatever happens they try to stick to their plans. This does not mean that they are not spontaneous. They just have an alternative plan for every possible scenario. This has to do with the fact that they are quite orderly as well. Germans try to keep everything clean and tidy
The Dutch are neither the clog-wearing windmill-dwellers of popular folklore, nor the drug-dealing pornographers which they have been made out to be in recent times. Few Dutch people would recognize themselves in such stereotypes. They are certainly a unique people and this begins with the fact that they have quite literally had to create their own country in the face of overwhelming natural adversity to do this they had to be industrious and also be both ingenious and courageous, two traits that are as common today as they have ever been.
The “way of the warrior” This style of play employs long lofted balls up field and crosses into the middle as opposed to shorter ground passes. The British philosophy is to get the ball up to the forwards as soon as possible (Clark). Therefore, the most important position on the pitch for the British is the striker. England’s style of play is both fast-paced, and entertaining. There’s nothing quite like watching the physical, no-holds-barred British style of football. England’s “Route One” he says is simple and effective.
Like the British, the Spanish used to employ an outdated style of football that relied on hard-work and relentless aggression known as:”La Furia Española” or Spanish Fury. The difference between the British and the Spaniards; however, is that the Spanish eventually adopted a new system. The philosophy of tiki-taka is that if your opponents don’t have the ball, they can’t score. Therefore, it’s best to keep possession for as long as possible and only go for goal when the chances of scoring are at their absolute highest. After that goal is scored, all one has to do is maintain possession of the ball until the match ends. It’s like a 90-minute game of keep-away.
The Brazilian style of football is, with a doubt, the most famous. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that it is simply the most fun to watch. Joga bonito, which is Portuguese for “The Beautiful Game” emphasizes beauty, style, and individual accomplishment. Brazilian players are world-renowned for their amazing skills with the ball. The archetypical Brazilian is not only adept at handling the ball, but also fearless in their willingness to take on opponents one on one. Unlike Spain, the player is the focal point of the Brazilian strategy. Passes are only used to move the ball to a player in a better position to score. They do not aim to maintain possession for the entire game, the emphasis is always upon creating chances and scoring goals (Mann)
Most nations’ football philosophies are concerned with producing goals on offense. In Italy it is the opposite. For the Italians, defense is the key to success. Instead of seeking to produce goals, the main objective is to prevent them. The hyper-defensive Italian style of play has come to be known as catenaccio which means “door bolt” in Italian. Italy also developed the “Zona Mista” system which is a fluid mixture between zone and man defending. This new defensive approach helped produce World Cup victories in 1982 and 2006 (“Italian Soccer”).
If ever there was a team that took on the characteristics of its country, it would be Germany. Efficient and highly organized, the Germans play a disciplined, hard-working style that sees them become contenders in almost every international tournament they take part in. Making use of the considerable physical stature of the players, German soccer often relies on raw physicality. Crosses are often swung in to tall target-men, who can gain aerial control using their height, or use their stature to hold off opponents. The team is disciplined which is to say, each player has a specific role and adheres to this role strictly. Players are rarely out of position, with ranks within formations almost always rigidly kept. Improvisation is rarely seen, with direct attacks at goal the usual method of going forward. The style is not particularly attractive, but the fact that it is brutally effective cannot be denied.
Total Football – In the early 1970’s, the Italian catenaccio was getting much success in international play, leading the Dutch to develop a style of play that would neutralize this defensive wall. Because of its emphasis on man-to-man marking, the Dutch needed something that would confuse the opposition.Total football relies on each player being able to play at every position and its success is determined by how well each player’s ability to adapt to each position. Every player on the field would rotate in and out of position across the field, throwing any man-to-man marking schemes into disarray and creating a very fluid looking game in the process.